Thinking Citizen Blog — Pakistan (II) Highlights of Recent History, 1979–2020

Thinking Citizen Blog — Monday is Foreign Policy Day

Today’s Topic: Pakistan (II) Highlights of Recent History, 1979–2020

Making sense of recent Pakistani history is no easy task. In theory, the Prime Minister of Pakistan is the head of government and the President the figure head, but from 2001 to 2008 Pakistan was ruled by its President Pervez Musharaf after a military coup. It was under his watch that former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the one great hope for a liberal, secular Pakistan was assassinated. Musharaf was later sentenced to death for treason charges but a High Court in Lahore annulled the death sentence. Nawaz Sharif was the 12th, 14th, and 20th Prime Minister of Pakistan serving for three non-consecutive terms: 1990–1993, 1997–1999, and 2013–2017. In total he is the longest service Prime Minister Pakistan has ever had. In 2017 the Supreme Court of Pakistan banned Sharif from holding public office for life based on findings of corruption that emerged from the Panama Papers Case. Since the 2018 elections, the Prime Minister of Pakistan is Imran Khan, most famous as the captain of the Pakistan National Cricket team who led the team to its only Cricket World Cup in 1992. He is also famous for having been a notorious playboy with a list of former lovers to rival Don Juan’s. He would appear to be the perfect puppet for the real rulers of Pakistan — the military and, specifically, the intelligence services (ISI). Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. From 1979 to 1989 — close cooperation in funding the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviet Union.

2. 1989 to 1994: rough patch after a US “unilateral military embargo over the covert development of nuclear weapons which Pakistani administrations saw as only way to defend the nation in light of India’s larger military conventional attack in 1990.”

3.1994–2001: after sanctions waived off in 1994 with Pakistan’s willingness to participate with the United States in wars in Somalia and Bosnia, the United States again suspended the aid and imposed sanctions along with India in 1998, only to be lifted again with United States engagement in Afghanistan in 2001.


1. Pakistani authorities harbored Osama Bin Laden for nine years.

2. Because of US knowledge of this collusion, the US took unilateral action against Bin Laden in 2011.

3. The Pakistani government denied collusion and condemned US violation of Pakistani sovereignty.

NB: While the vast majority of Americans approved of the killing of Bin Laden, most Pakistanis did not. In fact in a 2012 poll, 74% of Pakistanis considered the US more an enemy than an ally. The head of Pakistani intelligence services (ISI) at the time was Ahmad Suja Pasha. His successor was Zaheer-ul-Islam (2012–4). Then Rizwan Ahktar (2014–6. Then Naveed Mukhtar (2016–8). Then Asim Muneer (2018–9). Then Faiz Hameed (2019-Present). I have failed to find any detailed information on any of these shadowy figures. The Wikipedia entry on Faiz Hameed does not even include his age. Can anyone help here?


1. Saudi Arabia funded the Islamization of Pakistan under General Zia in the 1970s. Since then the number of madrassas has increased from 800 to over 27,000.

2. According to a Pew Research survey, Pakistanis hold the most favorable perception of Saudi Arabians in the world, with 9 of 10 respondents viewing Saudi Arabia favorably.”

3. Apparently, roughly 70,000 Pakistani servicemen serve in the Saudi armed services.

NB: Pakistan has been called Saudi Arabia’s “closest Muslim ally.” But there are some signs that the relationship has come under strain due to the rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and India — bilateral trade between India and Saudi Arabia is $27 bn versus $3.6 bn between Saudi and Pakistan.

Benazir Bhutto

Pervez Musharraf

Nawaz Sharif

Imran Khan

Panama Papers case

Killing of Osama bin Laden

Ahmad Shuja Pasha

Shakil Afridi

Abbottabad Commission Report

Pakistanis Criticize U.S. Action That Killed Osama Bin Laden

Pakistani Public Opinion Ever More Critical of U.S.

Reset With Unpopular U.S. May Be Tough Sell in Pakistan

Pakistan–Saudi Arabia relations

The Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relationship hits a bump in the road

How Saudi Arabia is pressuring Pakistan to recognize Israel | Opinion

Here is a link to the last three years of posts organized by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest or most important thing you learned in the last week, month, or year related to foreign policy. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in our life related to foreign policy.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And to consolidate in your memory something important you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is the key to depth of thought. The prospect of imminent publication, like hanging and final exams, concentrates the mind. A useful life long habit.

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